Redmond: Central Oregon’s Next Big Beer Scene
There’s no way around it: When you consider Central Oregon’s craft beer scene, your first, second, and third thoughts probably involve Bend. The city’s own Deschutes Brewery launched the region’s craft beer boom in 1988.
All of Bend seems to congregate on the lawn at Crux Fermentation Project on sunny summer Saturdays, and—in all—nearly two dozen breweries sit within city limits. It’s entirely possible that another brewery opened in Bend while you read this paragraph.
But Redmond, just 17 miles north of Bend, is making its case as the region’s next big beer destination. With a mix of veterans and newer entrants alike, the city’s handful of craft breweries are pouring pints for just about every palate these days.
Just keep in mind: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, these breweries may be closed—or might offer shortened hours for to-go orders. If you’re already in Redmond, check in with a brewery before visiting; and if you’re out of town, we can’t wait to see you at these great breweries when it’s safe to travel again.
Redmond’s craft beer dates back to 1994, when Cascade Lakes Brewing Company launched in the city and became the second oldest brewery in Central Oregon.
Cascade Lakes opened its 7th Street Brew House just south of downtown two years later and continues to pour a mix of classic styles—like a citrusy IPA, an easy-drinking blonde ale, and a sweet brown ale that delivers subtle hints of caramel.
Andy Rhine, partner and director of brewing operations at Cascade Lakes, grew up in Central Oregon and jumped at the chance to purchase a stake in the vaunted brewery with his father, Bruce Rhine, in 2018.
In doing so, Rhine found himself enchanted by the community around Cascade Lakes—and the region’s broader brewing culture. “Being a Central Oregon local, there’s definitely a strong culture of buying local and supporting local,” he says. “We have a lot of small, independent, family-owned businesses in town, and I think the majority of folks living here go out of their way to support them.”
Soon after, the duo hired Ryan Schmiege away from Deschutes Brewery and installed a pilot system to boost the brewery’s experimental setup.
That allowed the brewery to expand from a half-dozen new, draft-only offerings in 2018 to two dozen in 2019. Rhine says the increased output allows the brewery to remain nimble, respond to trends, and meet their customers where they’re at. “The customer in 2019 or 2020, most of them want something new,” he says. “They want something they haven’t tried before.”
Brian Mitchell, brewery manager at nearby Wild Ride Brewing, remembers seeing the longstanding success of Cascade Lakes and sensing that Redmond’s craft beer fans were thirsty for a homegrown community to call their own—one far from the shadow cast by Bend’s thriving beer scene.
So when Wild Ride took over an old lumber warehouse and opened its doors in 2014, he knew the brewery could be part of something special. “We’d get the best of both worlds,” he says. “We could carve out our home and fill what we saw as a void in downtown Redmond, all while still being part of the Central Oregon craft beer community.”
Today, Wild Ride pours nearly 20 beers at any given time, with a diverse tap list that usually boasts nearly as many styles. And, in lieu of an in-house kitchen, a few food carts sit on the brewery’s spacious outdoor seating area, which routinely fills up on sunny days.
Today, Wild Ride sits surrounded by breweries throughout town—a development that Mitchell welcomes and embraces. “It’s been exciting to see additional breweries start up in Redmond—and to see the community embrace those breweries as they did (and have) for us,” he says.
In the years since Wild Ride first rolled up its doors, a new generation of breweries have opened—with each bringing something new and different to Redmond.
Take Kobold Brewing’s Vault Taphouse in downtown. Steve Anderson, owner and brewer at Kobold, has long been interested in the complexity behind porters and stouts—and makes a point to have at least one of his beloved dark beers on tap at any given time. “You get done fermenting, and the beer may be drinkable at that point, it may need another month of conditioning—it requires more attention and more craft to create those beers,” he says. “I like the challenge, and I like the end result.”
Nearby Geist Beerworks, meanwhile, opened in 2018 and has since partnered with Central Oregon Community College to offer continuing education courses on homebrewing, beer tasting, and recipe design. The brewery even puts its own spin on the taproom experience by offering a hop press with beer orders (for an added fee); similar to a coffee press or tea press, the appliance lets customers infuse their beer with additional hops for a juicier, fresher flavor.
At the other end of town, Porter Brewing Co. became one of only two breweries in Oregon to focus on cask-conditioned “real ales” when it opened in September 2018. (“Real ales” are unfiltered and unpasteurized—and go through secondary fermentation in a cask, as opposed to a keg, before they’re served. The beers are generally warmer than beers poured out of a keg, as well.)
Brewer and co-owner Deven Roberts calls real ales his “favorite way to enjoy beer” and says he saw an opportunity to stand out with cask ales. “You get all the flavors in the beer,” he says. “The beers aren’t over-carbonated and ice cold to hide any of the flaws or flavors in the beers, so you really have to pay careful attention to the beer and ingredients selection to produce a cask beer, because everything is up front.”
Avara Roberts, co-owner and Deven’s wife, says that niche helped Porter fit neatly into Redmond’s growing craft community—even as the brewery forges its own path. “The beer scene is a pretty tight-knit community,” she says. “Everybody is really helpful, kind, and supportive of each other. And that’s a really nice community to be a part of in Redmond.”